Each year, the Tony Wilson Kickoff Classic raises money for the Lynden High School football program. (Courtesy photo)

LYNDEN — The 15th annual Tony Wilson Kickoff Classic charity event took place on Aug. 6 at Homestead Golf & Country Club. 

The event, which consists of a golf tournament and online auction, raises money each year that goes toward the Lynden High School football team and Tony Wilson Scholarship fund. 

The golf tournament and auction honors former Lynden High School quarterback Tony Wilson, who died in 2007. 

“(Wilson) came to the coach and said, ‘Hey, I want to do something for the program to give back, I’d love for the kids to be able to take a charter bus to Eastern football camp,” said Lynden football coach Blake VanDalen. “And they got started on the process. It was going to be called Lynden Football Classic. Unfortunately, one month before the tournament, at a very young age, (Wilson) died of an aneurysm.” 

Wilson’s family and friends renamed the event in his honor and held it anyway. They also opened a scholarship in his name. The event has happened every year since. 

“With the money we raise, we are completely hands-off and make no decisions with it,” said Bree Maberry, one of the event’s coordinators. “We give it completely to Coach VanDalen and he buys state-of-the-art protective equipment for the team and a bus for the (camp) at Eastern (Washington University).” 

Maberry said the football team has some of the best equipment in the state due to the tournament. 

Maberry also said that the money always goes toward a charter bus for a trip to Eastern Washington University every year because that was Wilson’s original vision. 

“The first year we went (to Eastern), we were crammed in vans, and I honestly think this is where Tony got the idea,” VanDalen said. “The coaches are driving, and in his mind, he thought, ‘How cool would it be for the Lynden kids to show up to camp on a charter bus?’ And I think that was kind of the birth of the whole thing.” 

VanDalen also said the money has helped them in the past with projects like their weight room remodel, as well as ensuring that no student misses out on an opportunity because they can’t afford it. 

“Every kid that wants to go to camp but can’t afford it, they cover the expenses, so no kid ever misses out on going to camp,” he said. “Everyone has a team sweatshirt, and he can’t afford one? They take care of that.” 

Maberry also said the money goes toward the Tony Wilson scholarship fund, which goes to a male and female senior at the high school every year. 

“Cheerleaders, athletic managers ... anyone who is involved with the team at all can apply for the scholarship,” Maberry said. “It’s not a full ride, but it is a scholarship.” 

She said it is a great community event and if anyone is interested next year, she encourages them to get involved. 

VanDalen said his favorite part of the event is the way that it honors Wilson. He said the school has not allowed anyone to wear No. 19 on their jersey since Wilson’s death.

“No one else has worn that number, so it’s just kind of a special program that really ties our program together,” he said. “The legacy of past players coming and getting to meet the young, new players in the current program. ... That’s why the name is so appropriate. Because it honors Tony Wilson.”

At this time, Maberry does not yet know how much money this year’s event raised for the Lynden football program.